Former Democratic state Rep. Jim Moeller announced Friday morning that he will run for the Clark County Council position currently held by Republican Jeanne Stewart.
Moeller, 62, made the announcement at a breakfast regularly hosted by the Labor Round Table of Southwest Washington. He said he’s been attending the breakfast since his time on the Vancouver City Council — he was first elected in 1995 and stepped down upon his election to the state Legislature in 2002.
“That’s where I’ve always made announcements,” he said.
Moeller said he has retired from Kaiser Permanente, where he worked as a chemical dependency counselor. In 2016, he unsuccessfully ran against Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
“I love it here, and I’m not done,” Moeller said when asked why he’s making another run for public office.
Moeller said he wants to lift the county’s ban on recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated parts of Clark County.
“We regulate it, we tax it, we move on with other things,” said Moeller, who dismissed arguments that doing so could adversely affect youth and public health. “The war on drugs has long been lost, and that’s a holdover from that.”
The county is currently considering going to the voters with a bond to fund upgrades to the aging and outmoded county jail. Moeller said he wants to work on the issue as a councilor, using the position to support the bond.
If elected, Moeller said he’ll also advocate for replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. When asked about supporting a third bridge connecting Southwest Washington to Oregon, he said, “eventually, yes” but not in the immediate future.
Clark County officials have long complained about the county’s structural deficit, a situation where costs outpace revenue. When asked about the issue, Moeller offered no ideas for how to address it.
Moeller served seven terms in the Washington House representing the 49th Legislative District. There, he was elected speaker pro tempore, an influential post that had him presiding over the House. Moeller was considered one of the more liberal members of the House. He previously told The Columbian he was “going to be the Bernie Sanders of Washington state,” referring to Vermont’s socialist senator.
Moeller said that he briefly considered running for council chair, but concluded that Marc Boldt, a nonpartisan who holds the position, will likely win re-election.
So far, Moeller is the only Democrat to announce a run for county council. With the exception of Boldt, the entire council is comprised of Republicans. Moeller said he would be able to work with the rest of the council and that he can see “both good and bad in both parties.”
Stewart hasn’t filed paperwork with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission to run for election and hasn’t announced her intentions. She was elected county commissioner on a county-wide vote in 2014 before the Clark County Home Rule Charter went into effect. Now a councilor under the charter, Stewart will face voters in a district that encompasses a large portion of Vancouver if she does run.
If Stewart makes a bid to keep her position, it won’t be the first time she’s squared off with Moeller. In 1999, Stewart unsuccessfully challenged Moeller in his re-election bid for Vancouver City council.